By Katie Quaranta
At its final meeting of spring quarter, Faculty Senate spent most of its time on reviews of committee performance and addressed two pieces of new business, the first reading of a resolution calling for faculty to form a collective bargaining unit and discussion about faculty involvement in the switch from quarters to semesters.
Senator Kenneth Brown introduced the resolution, which calls for the formation of a collective bargaining unit. The resolution specifically was based on the concern that the university might break a previous commitment that would redirect health care benefit surpluses back to employees.
The senate passed a resolution in May stipulating that the entire health benefits surplus, estimated at about $3.5 million, be used to defray and contain healthcare costs and all surplus derived from employee premium contributions be returned to employees at the end of each year in the form of a prorated premium "holiday."
Earlier in the meeting, Executive Vice President and Provost Kathy Krendl said she was in the process of reviewing that resolution and was hoping to find a compromise that would satisfy both faculty and the administration.
Senator Joe McLaughlin questioned whether it was wise to base the idea of forming a bargaining unit on the single topic of how health care surpluses are spent.
"Do we really want to put all of this on one issue?" he said.
Senator Joseph Bernt agreed, but said the language could be useful as an example of a more widespread problem of the administration overlooking faculty concerns. Brown said he would welcome any friendly amendments to clarify the reasoning and strengthen the resolution.
The conversation segued into one concerning appropriate faculty involvement in discussions about if and when the university should transition from quarters to semesters. Senate Chair Sergio Lopez-Permouth expressed concerns that the administration was moving too quickly toward the transition, especially since an exploratory committee determined last year that neither system was superior from an academic perspective.
Senator Thomas Flynn proposed that the body pass a resolution that the administration must consult the senate's executive committee before making any decisions.
"I think we need to go on record tonight saying we want to be involved in some formal way," he said.
Many senators voiced their agreement, particularly regarding any extra faculty workload and compensation that would be necessary should the transition take place. Senator Duane McDiarmid added that they needed to make sure faculty members are not left out of the process over the summer.
These concerns prompted the suggestion that the senate suspend the rules and pass the collective bargaining resolution immediately so that they could go into the semester discussions in a position of strength. However, a few senators also expressed their belief that this issue was too complicated and multifaceted to push forward without adequate thought and discussion. Senator Greg Van Patten expressed the need for time to circulate the idea among his constituents.
"I think that this is one of those cases that the rule for a second meeting was written for," he said.
Lopez-Permouth concluded the meeting with a promise to e-mail suggestions for a written statement that would be presented to the administration and the Board of Trustees about the need for faculty input in the semester discussion. He will accept suggestions for changes and continue the process until the group reaches a consensus.